An affecting account of determined, courageous responses to global, persistent racism.



Using the year 1896 to tie the themes of racism, deceit, and brutality across continents, first-time author Davis takes the reader from the failed Italian invasion of Ethiopia to post-Reconstruction conditions in America.

The novel begins and ends with Sara, an Ethiopian woman separated from her husband and children by some Sudanese slave traders during the Italian-Ethiopian conflict. She manages to escape and make her way home, saving a wounded Italian soldier in the process—a testament to her forgiveness as well as her grit. Davis describes the Italian invasion of Ethiopia from the invaders’ and defenders’ perspectives, focusing on the Italian leaders’ ineptitude and intrigues among the Ethiopians, culminating in the Italians’ stunning defeat at Adwa. Elsewhere, Davis chronicles the uprising of the Ndebele and Shona in southern Africa. Cecil Rhodes and British colonists triumph over them, forcing all into an unfavorable peace treaty and taking most of their land. In another section, Davis tells the story of Curtis, a black man from Alabama who migrates north to stay with his mother in New York. Disillusioned with city life and northern racism, he returns to the South, only to be lynched, mutilated, and burned after he’s wrongly accused of raping a white woman. While the plot is powerful, the writing can be uneven. The American section is artfully and subtly written, but the description of the Ethiopian invasion from the perspective of the Italian leaders uses stiff dialogue that serves too often as creaky exposition (“Ras Mikael joined forces with the emperor when the emperor reached Wello but that was expected since he is the emperor’s son-in-law. Other leaders in the south and the west have joined him at Lake Ashangi also”). But Davis delivers a gut-wrenching account of the hardships endured by Curtis and gives a convincing account of pervasive, irrational racism moving like a toxic cloud from one continent to another. “We are all niggers to them,” Zansi, an Ndebele warrior, explains to Rhodes’ envoy.

An affecting account of determined, courageous responses to global, persistent racism. 

Pub Date: April 3, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-60047-403-3

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Wasteland Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2015

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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